Having amassed an impressive amount of airmiles travelling around Europe and Middle East, it is safe to say Ilona Maras knows her way around the globe. She has been signed to German mega imprint Get Physical Music. Being in the top charts with most of her productions, and having the great support for her music by many influential artists such as Pete Tong, Paco Osuna, Nicole Moudaber, M.A.N.D.Y. to name a few, at such a young age in her career spells nothing but success.
We had the chance to chat with her aligned to her new EP ‘Asrar’ release.
Electronic Groove: Hi Ilona, thanks for the time to chat with us. How this year started?
Ilona Maras: I am very well, kicking off the 2017 with full power. Good is that I still live in the sunny winter with 25 degrees, and bad is that I actually don’t get to enjoy it to the fullest .
EG: Tell us about how you first got into dance music and where – what labels and parties excited you?
Ilona Maras: I first got into the dance music back home in Montenegro at a very early age. Soon after I left to Greece for studies, I was part of their raves with mainly Global Underground crew at that time, Nick Warren, John Digweed, Danny Tenaglia, Carl Cox to name a few.
EG: How long until you started DJing and making music? What gear did you use? How long did it take to find your own sound?
Ilona Maras: I started playing with the production much before I picked up on Djing. It was mainly for fun, self-learning to make some beats without any gear, just with the mouse and old laptop. Djing came really much after in late 2010 or early 2011, when I asked to play in one bar in Zurich. That was my first ‘public’ gig and since then I never stopped.
EG: What were you into at first, what sort of stuff, and how have your tastes changed since then?
Ilona Maras: I literally listened to everything and anything over the years. At the beginning, it was more ‘trancy’ and ‘progressive’ direction at my party times, but then I started going more house, and then the wave of deep house took me over. Today I very much enjoy techno, with lots of variations of old, hard techno, to newer melodic, and deeper techno. I don’t and I simply can’t limit myself to any music genre nowadays, because a good production is a good production, and finds its way to my emotions whether it is old, new, deep, sad, happy, indie, chillout, techno or house.
“Today I very much enjoy techno, with lots of variations”
EG: Have you got any formal musical training? Or are you more trial and error when it comes to studio work?
Ilona Maras: After a lot of self-education, I did a few courses over the years in different music production schools, as: it made much more sense to go through some more structured learning. I did for some time piano and drum lessons, as it definitely helps in music composition. I try even today to explore more, mainly on my own, to make sure to improve myself a small step with every production I make.
EG: Your last release ‘Existe’ went out on Get Physical. How did your relationship with the label come about and how does it feel to have such a strong and pinnacle imprint a fan of your works?
Ilona Maras: The EP that was out in 2016 went pretty well, topped the charts for quite some time, which led to the tracks being included in most of Get Physical compilations as well. I have been following Get Physical for years, and I love their quirky and quite forward music which made me happy and proud to be part of them.
EG: Tell us about your new EP ‘Asrar’ – where and when was it written? What was the inspiration for it?
Ilona Maras: I had an idea to create something more ‘eastern’ since I have been living in the middle east for some years now, and obviously got influenced by their sounds, culture and more. I made a lot of friends here, who were born and raised in this region, and one of them is actually talking in this track about secrets in Arabic. Marwan Sabb, my DJ friend who is a French/Tunisian living in Paris, liked the track as well, and suggested to make a remix of it. The track was made in 2015, and now when I look back, I can’t believe that it has been already 1,5 years since then.
EG: What is next for you, what else you got coming up in 2017?
Ilona Maras: I signed a few more tracks, and I have 2 EPs coming out with Natura Viva with cool remixes of Rafael Cerato and Bryan Kessler, beautiful dreamy tune ‘I belong to you’ with Ana Coya on the vocals signed to Sony Music, and 2 remixes I did for Alchemist on his ‘Women’ EP on Hator Records, coming out very soon.
“I am definitely most proud of the last year’s success”
EG: Living currently in Dubai, how would you best describe the dance scene currently now in Asia moving into this new year?
Ilona Maras: I must say that Asia is picking up massively on the dance seen overall. When it comes to underground music it might go a bit slower, but it’s improving greatly as well. As from what I could see in the past 2-3 years’ commercial music still works much better here, at least in the Middle East. Still compared to some years ago, we have gone pretty far, and I am happy to be part of the underground move.
EG: What have been the hardest things to overcome in getting to the stage you are at now in your career?
Ilona Maras: The hardest part was getting my productions solid, unique and signed by good labels. The next hard step is topping up the previous work, as getting better puts on bigger expectations. Apart from that, I learned that minding my own business and sticking to the like-minded humble creative and fun people rather than big unjustified ego’s in this industry is almost crucial for my mental health.
EG: What are you most proud of to date? What stands out, what is your best achievement?
Ilona Maras: I am definitely most proud of the last year’s success, where my tracks were played on so many recognized radio stations, by so many DJs that I love, and sign-ing to my favorite labels. I also ran a full marathon last year, just sayin’.
Ilona Maras’s ‘Asrar’ EP is available on Emotive Sounds.
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